Speaking with storied journalist Charlie Rose, Michael Morell said he would covertly encourage members of Syria’s “moderate opposition” to go after Russian and Iranian agents in Syria.
“They’ve got to pay a price for what they’re doing,” he said in an interview that aired late Monday, drawing parallels to U.S. actions to subvert Russia in Afghanistan in the 1980s. “We need to make the Iranians pay a price in Syria. We need to make the Russians pay a price.”
Russia and Iran have been Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s principle backers, providing the embattled leader with crucial military hardware and troops. Russia also began an air campaign nearly a year ago that has greatly bolstered Assad on the battlefield.
The turn in tide to Assad’s favor has resulted in a “moving away” from a potential diplomatic settlement to Syria’s more than five-year conflict, Morell said.
He proposed U.S. action to “go after” assets that Assad sees as vital to his power base, including his presidential guards, aircraft and offices in order to bring the Syrian president back to the negotiating table.
“I want to scare Assad,” he said. “I want to make him think we’re coming after him. I’m not advocating assassinating him.
“I want to put pressure on him; I want to put pressure on the Iranians; I want to put pressure on the Russians to come to that diplomatic settlement,” he added, arguing that alone would renew hopes for the long-sought resolution.
The former spook publicly endorsed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton last Friday, saying her rival, Republican Donald Trump, is not only unfit to hold office, but also poses a threat to national security.
Morell told Rose he would be part of Clinton's national security team.